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6 hikers rescued from the hills above Malibu

February 16, 2010 12:16:23 AM PST
Six hikers were rescued from the hills above Malibu early Tuesday morning. Search crews looking for a missing man and woman, found the couple and another group of four who needed help.The original report had crews looking between Kanan Dume Road near Newton Canyon Road for a male and a female, but when they arrived, they found two vehicles parked. Authorities discovered that there were actually six hikers who ended up staying the night in the canyon.

One by one, a Sheriff's helicopter hoisted the missing hikers out of Zuma Canyon.

Rescue teams set out in search of the couple and their dog after a friend reported them missing just after midnight.

"They got a little too far out, and it got dark and the area down there is pretty treacherous. And you can't really negotiate that terrain at night, so they just stayed put," said Sgt. Tul Wright of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Rescuers zeroed in on the missing hikers when they located a campfire from the air. The flames were the heat source for Rich O'Farrell and his group, who had set out on a short hike on Monday, but a minor injury left them stranded overnight.

"My brother stubbed his toe, couldn't walk as fast, couldn't make it out by night. We just camped. It was cold and miserable, but not that bad," O'Farrell said.

Sheriff's officials said the missing couple huddled on the side of the hill with their dog to stay warm.

O'Farrell's group had no clue other hikers were also waiting for daylight to safely climb out of the canyon.

"Those guys were apparently about 100 yards up from us, but we didn't know that they were there," O'Farrell said. "We were kind of surprised they didn't come down and share the fire because it was pretty cold."

Campfires are normally not encouraged, but in this case, it helped lead rescuers in the right direction and kept O'Farrell and his friends warm.

"Now we don't like to see fires lit in these areas. However, it's understandable in a survival situation in this kind of weather," Wright said.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department said the hikers made the right choice by deciding to stay overnight and not try hiking in the dark.